View Full Version : Straight to agent (skipping the mags?)

05-04-2006, 07:33 AM
This may sound a bit cocky, but really it's not...I am honestly confused. I have taken many writing classes from well-respected teachers/authors at prestigious conferences and/or colleges, and each has said that my nonfiction (memoir-ish stuff) is quite good, ready for publication; and they have encouraged me to send it out...which I do ... and it gets summarily rejected.....mind you, I've made a living as a reporter, have a journalism degree, and have been getting paid for writing PR stuff and for many regional pubs. Yet it seems nearly impossible to break into the better consumer markets. Lately, a few instructors have advised me to simply forget the fickle mag editors and "get an agent;" that an agent can better target the work, has the ear of editors, and can advise me how to package many of my pieces as a book, which can then be excerpted in mags....that pretty much all the best essay/memoir type slots at major mags and newspapers are the territory of already published authors or at least writers with books pending publication....
does this make any sense to anyone? Do agents ever even look at stuff from writers not already published in better markets? Or, am I just not doing good research on which markets to target? Thanks for any tips.

05-05-2006, 03:17 AM
Agents handle the sale of books, fiction and non-fiction. Agents don't handle the sales of short fiction. I don't know about short non-fiction for sure but I've never heard of any agent handling it. Maybe ask in the non fiction writing/journalism threads?

05-05-2006, 05:38 AM
It's probably true that unless your essay/memoir stuff is highly topical (chasing nasties from Al Qaeda, reflecting on serial killers you've known and loved, etc.), you aren't likely to nail five thousand words in The New Yorker. Most essay/memoir pieces in the top twenty mags only tend to be open to established writers. The big mags generally need the big names to keep flying. There are certainly exceptions, but not often. Be that as it may, there are many, many magazines where you stand a much better chance. Once you get something in these, your chances go up for getting into the big ones.

And seconding the motion above, agents do not generally handle anything except full-length literature. Mind you, full-length in the nonfiction field may still be pretty short -- you can easily have a nonfiction work of thirty or forty thousand words, with large type and lots of pics -- but it has to be something that lets the agent make a living on it, since they generally work on a fifteen percent commission basis. Your receiving a thousand bucks for an essay in a magazine is not going to rock their world.